I often wander around the neighborhood to look for anything that would interest me. I’m drawn to places with deep history and culture. And you’ll find many such places dotted throughout this island nation.
Some of the Catholic old churches stands in the middle of clusters of modern buildings and flats. Like the splendid Gothic church of the Church of Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary I recently visited.
Its story is one of the many great examples of the missionaries sacrifice in Asia. The first church was constructed in 1853 to serve the fishing village of Awkang. Its people are the immigrant Teochew. The church was later replaced by a “brick chapel named St. Mary’s Chapel”. Fr. Jean Casimir Salelles [parish priest 1881-1922] built the present church and named it the Church of the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary.
The church continue to offer Catechism classes to those who want to hear the teachings of Catholicism. Interested individuals can complete a form and request a class from Catechist. Unlike in our country where Catholicism is widespread, here it feels like the church is just beginning to take form. Such labor is reminiscent of the original missions in the 18th and 19th century.
Catholicism, although a minority, have several 18th century churches serving a significant number of Catholics, both local and foreign, around the island. These churches are among the most fascinating historical sites in the country.
While I was attending mass I saw countless Singaporeans of different ethnic backgrounds. Mostly Chinese and Indians. I imagine them to be descendants of the original Catholic converts in the islands. Its fascinating how an old religion can be communal, cultural, familial – although not a local, there exist a bond that makes me feel I’m no different from anybody else.
Church of the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary
1259 Upper Serangoon Road